, NAIROBI, Jan 21 – Eritrean army tanks besieged the information ministry in central Asmara on Monday after some 200 mutineers seized the building to call for political reform, diplomatic and diaspora sources said on Monday.
No shots had been fired and the rest of the city appeared calm, the diplomats added, although very few details were immediately available.
Amanuel Ghirmai, an Eritrean journalist in Paris for the opposition Radio Erena, said that around a 100 army mutineers stormed the hill-top ministry – which towers over the capital of the Red Sea state – early on Monday morning.
They reportedly ordered news readers at the government-run television and radio station – the only source of media for the authoritarian state – to read a statement that they will implement the country’s constitution.
The statement also reportedly ordered the release of prisoners of conscience.
“We do not know who is leading the situation… everybody has been put into the same room (in the ministry),” he said, adding that he had spoken to sources in Asmara.
The reports were not possible to confirm independently.
However, Eritrean expatriates who had spoken to compatriots in Asmara said they could confirm reports that troops had been deployed at the information ministry, and that state television Eri-TV had stopped broadcasting, they told AFP.
All Eritrea’s public media are recorded and broadcast from the ministry.
“The local transmission has been cut, the only satellite signal is airing some archives,” Amanuel added.
Eritrean President Issaias Afeworki has ruled the Horn of Africa nation with an iron grip from independence in 1993, following an epic 30-year liberation war from neighbouring Ethiopia.